We all know that when it comes to ranking in Google, you have to abide by Google’s rules or face serious penalties. Having know what those rules are, we’ve been able to make sure websites rank well in search engines because of that. However, we’ve never really been able to determine exactly how important certain rules are over other.
SEMRush recently conducted a study where they’ve discovered what the most important search engine ranking factors are. And, because Google has admitted before that there are quite a few things they look at, SEMRush has narrowed their own list down to the top 17 factors, from most important to least important.
This study gives us a good glimpse at the various things we have to look at and address to make sure our websites rank well in Google.
So, from most to least important, here they are:
1.) Direct visits to a website – The study shows that there is a direct link between the amount of visits you get on your website and a page’s ranking in Google’s search engine results page. If a page gets a lot of direct visits, this then tells Google that the page has authority and as a result, ranks better.
2.) Time spent on the website – Pages that have a higher ranking have lower bounce rates, meaning that the longer people stay on your website, the better your ranking will improve. The reason why could be attributed to said websites having great content that keeps visitors on their site.
3.) Pages viewed per session – If a user lands on your website after having searched for it, and they stay and browse 3 or more pages on your website, Google will use that to help rank your page in its search engine. This shows Google that the user finds your website relevant.
4.) Lower bounce rate – We know that in order to keep a user on your website, you need to keep them on your site for more than a few seconds. This is called a bounce rate and it tells us (and Google) how quickly a user leaves once they’ve accessed your domain. Now, this ranking signal helps you when your bounce rate is below 49%. Keeping this rate low is therefore beneficial.
5.) Total amount of referring domains – A referring domain is one that links to your website. The more high-quality, authoritative domains you have linking towards your domain, the more Google will see this as a positive indication of your domain’s authority and it will rank you higher.
6.) Total amount of backlinks – Being almost the same as point number 5, this ranking signal is triggered when Google picks up that there are more backlinks are that created and pointed towards your website. It has to be said that not any old link will work here; links need to be of high quality otherwise your ranking stays as it is.
7.) Total referring IP addresses – Websites work with IP addresses, which is a string of numbers that connects your domain name and its hosting account together. Like with points 5 and 6. this helps Google determine how many unique websites send traffic to your website. The more unique IP addresses are logged, the more Google uses that as a positive influence on your ranking. This is important because it’s easy to try and fool Google with this, hence they’ve placed an importance on this ranking signal.
8.) Total amount of followed backlinks – We’ve mentioned backlinks quite a few times now. With backlinks, you actually get TWO types: followed links or nofollow links. Followed links are more important because it tells Google that the creator of the link in question “endorses” it – think of it as a Like on Facebook. If a nofollow link is created, this tells Google that the link is not “endorsed” and Google shouldn’t worry about it. The more followed links pointing to your website, the better for your ranking will become over time.
9.) Content length – We’ve always maintained that content is king. Google has said the same thing for a lot longer than we have and they’ve set this a ranking signal to help prove their point. Longer, more unique content correlates to a higher ranking. Content should also be well optimized, relevant, engaging, and of a high quality, too.
10.) Website security (HTTPS) – We did an article on this a while back, but essentially, if your website uses https for its website security, then Google will see this as a good thing for your website it will positively impact your website’s ranking as a result. Not only is it a good idea to implement https security on your website for Google, but it’s a great idea to have this in place to protect your visitors and to build trust with them.
11.) Total anchors – Anchors are links that point to pages INSIDE of your own website. According to Google, the more links you have going inward, the better it tells Google that you have a website that has a large amount of resources and content that users can get some sort of value out of.
12.) Keyword usage in anchor text – Staying with links into your website, this signal tells Google how many keywords are contained within the links that are pointing to your internal pages. If Google picks up a keyword in these links, that’s a positive mark towards your ranking, according to Google. These keywords need to be relevant to the page you are linking to, so that Google can make the correlation between keyword and content.
13.) Keywords in your content – Staying with keywords still, we move onto keywords inside of your content. The goal of having content on your website is to inform the users about the services/products you provide. Google uses your content to rank you better. They do this by looking for keywords in your content. Google will analyse your content and check whether or not there are keywords within your content, making a connection between what the page is about and the keywords you’re trying to use to rank that page with.
14.) Keyword density – Following up point 13, we have keyword density. This ranking signal indicates to Google how many times a keyword is used in a website’s content. Now, this is a tricky thing to get right because a keyword has to be used just the right amount of times, otherwise it will look as though keywords are being stuffed into the content, which Google frowns upon.
15.) Keywords in your title – Website titles relate to the hidden aspects within your website – the meta tags. These tags tell Google and other search engines what the title, description and keywords for each page are. Having keywords in your title is something Google looks for to help you rank better. They even use it in their own search engine results page – the big blue link you see. A well-optimized title will give you a more positive ranking, guaranteed.
16.) Keywords in your meta description – Staying on the search engine results page, this description refers to the grey text below the big blue link. This description gives users an idea of the website they’re about to visit, but it’s also used by Google to help you rank better. It is therefore important to have keywords in this description, and in doing so, your ranking could look healthier because of it.
17.) Videos on your website/page – Videos are fast becoming more relevant in terms of SEO. So much so, that Google is using the presence of a video on your website/webpage as a ranking signal. If there is a video on your website (even if it is a Youtube video – that is relevant to your website and what you do), then this will push your ranking up in a positive direction. Now, seeing as this is listed at the bottom, and seeing as we said this list is ordered from most to least important, I would say that this won’t kill your ranking outright. It can HELP having a video on your website, BUT IT’S NOT 100% NECESSARY just quite yet.
To Wrap Up
Google places huge emphasis on its ranking signals and making sure certain elements are in place and properly optimized to help website owners obtain better rankings in Google.
As such, these factors go hand-in-hand with standard SEO practices, and we think optimizing your website with these in mind will push you higher up on Google’s search engine results page.